Discussed here: Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation. Dan Fagin. 560 pages. Bantam Books.
4 December 2014
Over the years, Princeton University Press has published some of the best natural histories and field guides available. For your consideration this holiday season: Conus of the Southeastern United States and Caribbean by Alan J. Kohn and Trees of Eastern North America and its companion that covers the West, both volumes by Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle and Richard Spellenberg, edited by Amy K. Hughes, with illustrations by David More. Listed for $80 (hardback) on Amazon last time we checked, Conus is for the serious naturalist
and a must for the hard-core beachcomber. Kohn, a foremost authority on cone snails, displays his scholarship on every page, with 2,100 mesmerizing color shell photographs of these fascinating gastropods. Conus is likely to remain in the home library or on a (sturdy) coffee table; readers will bring shells to it, not vice versa. The flexible-flapped tree guides sell for less than $30 and are made for the woods. These volumes are masterfully designed, and More’s exquisitely detailed renderings will ensure that weekend botanists never mistake their Hercules’ club for a common hoptree.
2 October 2014
Many a general reader’s mathematical journey ends on encountering the first formula. An Equation for Every Occasion: 52 Formulas and Why They Matter (Johns Hopkins) remedies that through storytelling, placing numerical and scientific concepts into familiar and fathomable context. Take This is the geometric progression at the heart of classical Ponzi schemes. Author John M. Henshaw’s straightforward explanation on why this equation matters is both cogent and, after a sympathetically brief introduction, equation-free: “Each new generation of investors has to be much larger than the one before in order to make the necessary payoffs, and eventually the whole thing collapses under its own weight.” In surveying the Drake equation, Amonton’s friction law, crowd-size estimating, surface tension and other topics as grand as gravity itself, Henshaw prevents math-exploration from collapsing under its own inaccessibility.